Discussion What's your favorite Civil War diary/memoir?

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eeric

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2019
I mentioned in another post that I enjoyed the diary of Gideon Welles (Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy). I also read Mary Chesnut's diary, which, although containing interesting observations on people and events, is sometimes difficult reading to get through.
How so? its a very personal diary she didnt intend to publish unless I am mistaken, I have read it twice and probably will again and think its among the top 10 CW memoirs easily hands down...
 

jackt62

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
How so? its a very personal diary she didnt intend to publish unless I am mistaken, I have read it twice and probably will again and think its among the top 10 CW memoirs easily hands down...
That's exactly what I found somewhat hard to get through, some of the personal stuff. While overall interesting, it is a long diary and many of the encounters that do not deal with the ongoing war, politics, or other major events, didn't hold the same interest to me. Just my opinion.
 

poorjack

Corporal
Joined
Jul 17, 2015
Location
NC
One very interesting thing I read while doing first person research was a set of letters from the time. The correspondence involved an unmarried young lady and several suitors, all of whom were serving in the Confederate army. None knew of the others. Her father approved of none, as alluded to often in her letters back to the guys. One in particular was heartbreaking. This particular guy was the one she seemed most interested in. His prose and handwriting was excellent. In his last letter to her, dated late Feb of 1864, he apologized for his poor handwriting as he had been wounded in the battle of Olustee and he was having to write with his left hand. There were some person sentiments but mostly he was informing her of his wounds and that he was resting and recovering. The paper had blood stains on it as well and he also apologized in the letter for them. The next item in that thread of letters from him was a newspaper clipping of his obituary as he died from his wounds in early March of 1864. She must have really wanted him as she never married any of the other suitors.

This is the kind of stuff you don't see in the history books or naratives of the time. It's only in the personal daily lives of the people of the day so I don't find a diary boring at all.
 
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How so? its a very personal diary she didnt intend to publish unless I am mistaken, I have read it twice and probably will again and think its among the top 10 CW memoirs easily hands down...
From what I understand, when Mary Chesnut originally wrote her diary during the war, she didn't intend to publish it.

However, after the war, Chesnut and her husband struggled financially (as did many families after the war). It is my understanding that Chesnut spent a great deal of time revising her wartime diary AFTER the war, with the thought that she might be able to make money from having it published.

This is just my understanding. So, let me know if this is not correct.

Chesnut attempted to write fiction as well. She started a novel titled "The Captain and the Colonel." She also started to write a fictionalized account about two years of her life in her teenage years before her marriage. I think that it was based on the period of time shortly before father, Stephen Decatur Miller (former governor of South Carolina), passed away.

Chesnut was personal friends with Varina Davis. During the years after the war, Mrs. Davis helped her husband with his own memoirs, and then she made money writing as a newspaper columnist in New York City. I personally wonder how much of an influence the women had on each other in their writing projects.
 
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Joined
Jan 26, 2016
Location
Massachusetts
John Ryan - 28th Massachusetts

He had a really interesting career. He was from my hometown, joined the 28th in 1861, served throughout the war with them and the 61st Massachusetts, then after the war joins the 7th Cavalry under Custer. He's actually very well respected by Custer since he's a vet and becomes a First Sergeant, then busted to Private for harshly disciplining another soldier and immediately promoted back to First Sergeant the day after the court martial ends. He's at the Little Bighorn with Reno (I think) and identifies Custer's body. He returns home and joins the Newton, Massachusetts police and becomes a Captain. He lived until the late 20s or early 30s. I had a friend in high school whose grandfather as a young boy used to deliver groceries to him.

His diaries with both the 28th and 7th Cavalry have been published, as has a biography.
 
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